i figured, since i'm getting ready for tomorrow's shop updates and doing some burning and printing today, that it'd be a good day to post the long-awaited screenprinting tutorial.
now, as i mentioned in an earlier post, there are gobs of screenprinting how-to's on the web - a slew of hilarious videos, and lots of different ways to accomplish more or less the same results. the following is my own little concoction - how i, personally, create screens to print my weekly diagram designs with. it's not the right way, it's certainly not the only way, but it's a way that i've found works for me. i figured it'd be a fun thing to post because, with a little determination, it is indeed something you can do at home (well, given you don't live in some 100 square foot shoe box apartment - i'm looking at you, brooklyn - and that you have a space you can mess up a bit).
- a screen, of course. i like the 110 mesh 12"x18" screens, which you can find at dick blick.
- photo emulsion
- 4 pushpins
- transparencies of your images - you can have these done at a copy shop.
- squeegee - i like my trusty 10" squeegee, personally.
- scoop coater (this is optional)
- lamp - one of those $6 metal work lamps from the hardware store works well
- a clear-glass 150 watt light bulb
- tape - you can be fancy and use "screenprinting tape" (which is red?) or you can use painters tape. duct tape would probably also work.
- a cleanish workspace, with some way to hang your light about 17" above your screen.
- access to a big sink or bathtub and a strong stream of water
- small pieces of clear glass picture frame glass works well, or a little simple scotch tape
once you've gathered all your materials, let's begin.
tape the edges of the screen and the frame, on both sides. this firms everything up.
insert a pushpin in to each of the bottom corners (that's the flush side, not the side where the screen is under the frame) so that it's almost as if your screen has little feet, like a piece of furniture.
fill your scoop coater with emulsion OR drizzle some emulsion onto the screen if you're going to apply the emulsion with a sqeegee. i think there's a bit of a learning curve with the scoop coater - be careful of applying too thick a coating of the emulsion. basically, you want to spread the emulsion, and then flip the screen over and run the sqeegee over the other side to collect the extra fluid. you want the coating to just barely coat the screen, and not have any gaps.
admire your coated screen. good job, you!
cover your coated screen, with the flat (pushpin) side down to let it dry.
you can put something over it (here, i've put some plywood over it), you can put it under something (a clean box that's the right size works well, just be sure it doesn't have dust or dirt that will fall onto your screen in it), or you can put it in a dark closet or bathroom. basically, you don't want light to be able to hit it (that would prematurely expose it) and you don't want things to fall on it. you can set it up next to a fan if you want to speed up the drying process a bit - for this, a dark bathroom or closet is a great set up.
set up your burning area. so, my set up is a little ghetto, but it works. and here's why: the light source is 17" above the screen (that's the recommended distance for the size screen that i like - you can google the distance for larger or smaller screens) and there's a dark surface that the screen will sit on. this means the light won't bounce up and hit the screen from the bottom while it's burning. good stuff.
take out your completely dry screen when you are ready to burn it.
place the transparencies onto the screen. you can either use a little piece of scotch tape to fix them in place, or you can place them under glass. here i used two pieces of glass from 8"x10" picture frames to cover the images and weight them down.
turn on the light, and time your screen. i usually set a timer for about 45 minutes, and then basically, i just watch it for another 5-8 minutes. you want the screen to turn a greyer greenish, i guess - you want the photo emulsion to expose and stiffen. the areas under the printed parts of your transparencies should remain the bright green emulsion color. careful not to disturb the transparency images too early - you want to make sure you get strong edges on the exposed parts.
remove the glass, tape and transparencies. take your screen to the sink and direct a strong spray of lukewarm water onto the image area. you can use a soft bristled brush to clean the unexposed emulsion out of the designs. this process take a little bit of time. you can check your process by holding the screen up to a light source - when you can see through the parts where the emulsion has washed out, you're good to go! just wait for the screen to dry and then you can print!
so, this obviously isn't as helpful as a hands-on demonstration, but hope it's helpful! i should warn you that this process does require a little trial and error - make little tweaks in your process to figure out what works for you. i'm a self-taught screen-burner, so i'm sure my process is a little weird to some people, and i'm by no means declaring that this is *the only way to make a screen*. but for what i do, it works. and i hope it works for you, too!
if you've realized this is all a lot of work just to make one little design, then go support your favorite screenprinting artist! (or you can check out my work at 1000markets, trunkt, etsy or supermarket. yay!)